Microsoft executive says we need more climate-smart workers

Brad Smith, president and vice president of Microsoft, wants thousands of companies to move from pledging to help solve climate problems to actually delivering on those promises. These companies can only meet the challenge if their workers are trained in sustainability, he wrote in a company statement this week.

“Employers must act quickly to improve the skills of their staff through learning initiatives that focus on sustainability knowledge and skills,” Smith writes. “This will require support from a variety of learning partners, including educational institutions, vocational training providers, apprenticeship programs and online training providers. »

The statement accompanied a report released this week that highlighted the need for workers prepared to deal with climate change. Microsoft partnered with the Boston Consulting Group to compile the data for the report. They surveyed 250 employees from 15 companies, including Microsoft, and found that the companies recruited 68% of their sustainability workers internally. “60% of sustainability team members joined the company without sustainability expertise,” the report said.

“In the history of civilization, few generations have needed to do so much in so little time as we need to do now. At its most fundamental level, this is the greatest challenge and greatest opportunity of our time,” Smith said in the foreword to the report.

And Smith isn’t wrong: time is running out. According to an IPCC report released earlier this year, the world has about three years to drastically reduce emissions to limit them to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). In a report released last year, the IPCC called this a critical decade for building solutions, moving away from fossil fuel dependence and rapidly decarbonizing our networks and economies.

However, the internal hiring route takes years. The report describes the case of a Microsoft employee who had a 30-year career with the company, starting in a customer service and support role, eventually achieving a leadership position in a team of sustainable development. The report suggests investing in employees at all levels to prepare them to create and scale a range of solutions to deal with climate change.

In the foreword to the report, Smith wrote that Microsoft would offer support to companies that are dedicated to developing skills and hiring sustainability experts to meet their climate commitments. Microsoft also plans to partner with INCO Academy, a company that offers online courses, for a green digital skills course. “We all need to work together to develop a common understanding, based on better data, about how jobs are changing and the sustainability knowledge and skills they need,” Smith wrote.

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